“Big Four” May Face Big Trouble In Britain
Britain’s Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) will announce this month whether it is investigating market dominance of the “Big Four” accounting firms – Deloitte LLP, Ernst & Young LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and KPMG LLP.
The investigation would follow a House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report entitled “Auditors: Market concentration and their role,” released in late March criticizing the big four auditors for their lack of oversight and their failure to warn regulators before the financial crash.
In that report, the Committee calls for a competition probe of the large auditors and dominance in the market. According to the Committee, 99 out of the FTSE 100 companies (and 240 of the FTSE 250 companies) were audited by the Big Four. The Committee noted concerns about “competition, choice, quality and conflict of interest.”
The OFT previously made submissions to the Committee and to the European Commission regarding competition in the audit market. An OFT probe would likely include bank loan covenants that require borrowers to use the big four auditors.